500 Days of Summer: This film should be a strong contender for the now 10 flick deep Academy Awards - Best Picture category. This story presented in a nonlinear narrative (not in chronological sequence) depicts a memory driven look at a failed romance. Stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (A River Runs Though It and 3rd Rock from the Sun) and Zooey Deschanel (Yes Man and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), engages the audience into the couple's relationship woes. The film produced for a meager $7.5 million grossed over $40 million at the box office and received a ton of critical acclaim. The soundtrack includes songs from the Smiths, Doves, Simon and Garfunkel as well as one of the best scenes in the film that incorporates the Hall and Oates classic "You Make My Dreams".
Funny People: Written and Directed by Judd Apatow and starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, this not so funny film about comedy is the feel good movie of the year. Sandler plays George Simmons, a very successful comedian who learns that he is sick and has less than a year to live. Ira a newbie in the stand-up world finds his way to performing in the same club as George one night and ends up becoming his protégé. This movie clocked in at nearly 3 hours but the vibe created by the story, cameo appearances and the bond between George and Ira left me wanting more. Apatow also provided us with a wonderful soundtrack that includes songs from Paul McCartney, James Taylor (in addition to a live performance), Neil Diamond, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and Wilco. Sandler even pulls off a wonderful performance of the lost Beatles song" Real Love".
I Love You Man: Written and directed by John Hamburg (co-writer of Zoolander and Meet the Parents/Focker films). I Love You Man is a movie about a guy, made especially for guys (as well as Rush fans). This film is about Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) who upon getting engaged to the woman of his dreams, suddenly realizes that he has no male friends to choose from to be his best man. Peter sets out on a series of very funny "man-dates" searching for the right guy. Sydney Fife (played by Jason Segel) becomes Peters new found 'bro". This film is extremely crude and in a large part the crudeness is what makes it so enjoyable. Cameo appearances include Lou Ferrigno and the band Rush.
Extract: After 12 years of King of the Hill, Mike Judge returns to the big screen with what feels like a sequel to his cult classic Office Space. Extract tells the story about workplace and marriage issues. The cast includes a wonderful performance by Jason Bateman (who plays the boss) along with Mila Kunis (voice of Meg on Family Guy and the love interest in Forgetting Sarah Marshall). The film also includes a great supporting cast including Ben Affleck playing Bateman's best friend and is the funniest performance of his career.
Star Trek: This is not your father's Star Trek. In this highly entertaining and quick paced, action packed film, J.J. Abrams brings the dormant franchise back with a heavy hitting punch. For fans of the original series you are in for a treat when you see the dead-on casting of the young Enterprise crew. The opening battle is one of the greatest opening scenes filmed since Saving Private Ryan - I'm not kidding! Here we are thrown into a dire sequence of events that leads to the death of George Kirk and the birth of James T. Kirk simultaneously. Chris Pine plays Kirk with such precision that he would win a best actor nod in a perfect world. Along the way we are treated to other wonderful performances by Zachary Quinto (Heroes) as Spock, Karl Urban (Bourne Supremacy) as Bones, Zoe Saldana (Avatar) as Uhura and Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz), providing us with the films comic relief as the young Scotty. Rounding off the crew is John Cho (Harold and Kumar) as Sulu and Anton Yelchin (young John Connor from Terminator - Salvation) as Chekov.
The Hurt Locker: This film is one of the most vivid depictions of the Iraq War ever made. Here Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break and Strange Days) tells a story of the United States Army Explosive Ordnance Team (EOD). Freelance reporter Mark Boal (In the Valley of Elah) penned the story while he was embedded with a real bomb squad stationed in Iraq. This is film-making at its grimiest best.
Public Enemies: A true action crime thriller from director Michael Mann. This quick paced and stylized movie tells the story of the hugely popular bank robber John Dillinger (Depp) whose lightning quick bank raids made him a folk hero during the depression era (not the current one). The film also depicts the early days of J. Edgar Hoover's inexperienced FBI and in particular one agent pursing Dillinger, Melvin Purvis (played by Bale). Time and again throughout the film Dillinger and his gang outwitted and outgunned the FBI in many wild chases and shootouts. Mann is known for his unique cinematography by making his films look visually stunning. This time around he mixes both HD and standard definition cameras into the mix and provides us with another work of art.
Whatever Works: Written and directed by Woody Allen. This is Allen's' return to narrative film-making using New York as his backdrop (after a 4 year European hiatus). Allen has revealed that the script itself was written in the early '70's, with Zero Mostel in mind for the main character Boris. The script was shelved after Mostel's death in 1977. Boris Yelnikoff (Larry David) plays an eccentric character that breaks down the imaginary fourth wall by speaking directly to the audience. In the midst of panic attacks and a suicide attempt Boris finds himself in the arms of a 21-year-old simple-minded woman played by Evan Rachel Wood. Whatever Works reminds us how funny Allen can be when he's not being serious.
My Sister's Keeper: A heart-wrenching film by director Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook). Cassavetes takes a gruesome topic and instead of making it a tear-jerker, creates a film that feels more like a 90 minute music video. Nevertheless you will still need to have a box of tissues handy. My Sisters Keeper is about a defense attorney (Cameron Diaz) who is forced out of retirement to return to the courtroom to defend herself and her husband (Jason Patric) when they are sued by their 13-year-old for emancipation. The daughter Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin/Little Miss Sunshine) was genetically conceived with the hope she could prolong her cancer-ridden sisters life. Here Breslin once again shows off her acting chops with yet another incredible performance.
Up In The Air: Written and directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank you for Smoking). With this film we are treated to a timeless masterpiece. Here we meet Ryan Bingham whose job it is to fire people. George Clooney's dry wit makes him a very likable character with a not so popular job. Although he is the bearer of bad news, Clooney's acting is so good that we sympathize for him as he experiences some life changing experiences of his own. This is not a big budget film by any means but along with Hurt Locker and 500 Days of Summer will be looked at as a classic in years to come.